What is the difference between having enough and having it all? Turns out – it is all in your perception. I just saw a great TED talk by Shawn Achor, leading thinker at Harvard University and author of The Happiness Advantage.
Shawn argues against the commonly held belief that it is our external world which determines our level of happiness. e.g. If I have a prestigious job, a great partner and lots of money = I will be happy. He proposes that this approach results in creating the opposite effect. Instead of generating happiness, it creates an endless cycle of self one-upmanship. Achieve a personal or professional goal? Your brain will set a new one. Attain an object of desire? Your brain will identify something new that you do not have.
Shawn discovered through his extensive research that truly happy, successful people, find joy in what they have right now, not what they hope to achieve in the future. These people focus on their current situation and express gratitude; and, while this does not mean that they do not have future dreams and aspirations, it does mean it is not the centre of their current reality.
As many people’s brains are not wired to work in this way, Shawn outlines a twenty-one day exercise to set up new thinking patterns and raise the level of positive in the present.
Keep a journal
- Identify a list of three things each day that you are grateful for (big or small).
- Write down one positive experience in detail every day. It helps the brain to process and remember the experience.
Exercise: Endorphins are nature’s happy pill.
Meditate: Spend time each day in a quiet space, focused on your breath, and allow your mind to slow down and gain clarity.
Practice random acts of kindness: To be in service of others creates a sense of overall well-being and a connection to something bigger than yourself.
Although I already instinctively know what Shawn says to be true, it is not something that I always remember to practice in my life. I have noticed time and time again that when I forget to stay focussed on the present, an underlying feeling of unrest, discontent and general malaise creeps in.
This morning, I woke up to my three-year old nestled up close beside me, sun streaming in through the window, and a wagging dog beside my bed. It was a powerful reminder to me that there is always something to give thanks for right now, and for that, I am truly grateful.
What makes you grateful today? Click here to tell me.